“The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World” is an achingly beautiful novel, a study in grief and renewal penned by Laura Imai Messina. Her words allowed me to weep. They begged me to reread pages and paragraphs again and again. Her words made me long for things undone, unsaid, incomplete. They invited me to think, to remember, to hope. They led me to believe when belief had been reduced to vapors drifting on mist.
I have longed for such a phone booth, perhaps even in my own back yard or in my own little Narnia, the secret space that inhabits lands not far from my home. I have often yearned for such a way to connect with that which is forever lost, with that which is wrapped in a wrinkle in time, perhaps never to be seen again. And just like in Madeleine L’Engle’s well loved story, I would be invited in such a phone booth to make great admissions to my soul, to remember that, “to love is to be vulnerable; and it is only in vulnerability and risk – not safety and security – that we overcome darkness.”
To trust enough to risk all, to be vulnerable enough to discover that which is yet unknown – these are the things we need to do before we would beg for such a phone booth, long before. Some do. Some do not. Some are merely alive. Some risk all and truly live.
But I and others who read this have known extraordinary pain and we do beg for such a place, for a chance to speak to that which may never be again. Sometimes it is because we risked all, sometimes it is because we did not.
We have wept. We have raged. We have chanced and we have lost, or we have been afraid, we have hesitated, and we have lost even more. We who would ask for such a phone booth have negotiated with the heavens. We have known bitter tears. But if we have listened deeply, carefully, quietly, we have also won. It is true that we laid bare our souls – risked all – and that what we believed in was torn from us, but to have suffered so deeply, I admit that I was blessed with much to lose. And eventually I am thankful.
Such a phone booth would lead me to places that I longed for but it would also funnel me toward other, harder places, places I needed to see. It would be good. It would be right. I would talk to the wind and the wind would reply: Look deeply. See.
It would be appropriate that it could do so for I do have places yet to see: some from my past I need to see more clearly; some from my present I need to observe with greater ease; some from my future that I would prepare for today.
But as I have no such phone booth in which to share my soul with the wind, in which to listen for the still small voice, my letters and stories instead will leave me settled. So I write. I explore. I stumble upon canyons deep and summits high. I let my characters lead me as they will, conjuring lost days, singing lost songs. They lead me to memories bright and I am taken to recollections that weep. I am led to discover new joy and I am allowed to bathe in regret, or to wrap myself in laughter and love.
Stories, whether true or True, are a magic beyond understanding, a mystical, heavenly realm that knows no logic, is aware of no time, that appears bound by no rules but two: risk and vulnerability. I write, I put pen to paper, I tap away on my keyboard like a thousand pecking hens, and I rarely know where the tales will lead, other than to truth.
It is magic and I am grateful that it is so. Letters and stories are a place of immense vulnerability, of belief that a muse will be near, of trust that I will be a willing partner in this dance, this moving, breathing sculpture that is so often shaped by forces unseen. I write, and stories emerge from the darkest of shadows, from sun dappled trees, from cracked, creaking stairs. I write and I am filled to overflowing, rain barrels in Spring. I write and I am joined in a grand adventure, leaping through the alleys of my mind. I write to whisper to the wind and I am reminded that the wind sings truth.
On some days my stories weep with lost family. On some I talk to distant friends. I sing my lament to the heavens and like Joe Coomer, I am “Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God.” On other days my faith runs deep. I believe. I hope. I know that all will be well, and that I will be lifted by a spirit much stronger than I.
Exploring in stories is life beyond life that none can truly explain. It is that which civilizations have honored for unknowable numbers of moons. It is that which opens ancient wounds, only to heal them. It is that which brings hope to the hopeless. A story is that which makes wise the simple, and it is that which can set us free. For many, freedom is found in their faith but even for those, their faith is told and retold in rich, resonant stories, in prayers given breath by the pen.
All I need do is quiet my soul and listen. All I need do is bring an honest, open heart that will risk all for truth, that will give all for freedom. Stories are my phone call to the wind, my prayers, my truth. They are my heartache. They are my hope and they are my joy. As long as the wind and the spirit will lead me, I will listen. I will listen and I will write. I will listen and I will tell stories.